“The series immediately dives into very emotionally charged stories that were really personal to me,” said the production designer. Joshua Petersen shares what drew him to Hulu’s “Life and Beth,” which was created by and stars Amy Schumer. The series switches between present-day Manhattan, where Beth, Schumer’s character, works as a wine distributor, and 1990s Long Island in flashbacks to Beth’s teenage years. These flashbacks really appealed to Petersen, who relished the opportunity to capture “the life and color of childhood” and create “an interesting palate, arc and line through”. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Life and Beth” draws much of its inspiration from Schumer’s own life, and Petersen talks about working closely with her to accurately recreate her past for the show. ‘Early on, I came back to New York to start and she had left flowers and a stack of her childhood journals on her desk’ to read, he says, and he was immediately ‘struck’ by the vulnerability by Schumer. Her attitude also allowed Petersen to draw on her own past, looking at old photographs and even using the rug from her childhood home.
The Long Island house has not only been Petersen’s favorite set since season one, but it also serves a vital purpose on the show, as audiences learn so much about Beth and her mother Jane’s past (Laura Benanti) through the appearance of space. The house tells the story of someone “who had money and lived a life of aspiration and decorated a very nice upper-class house” who unexpectedly had to downsize, but all the same tried to preserve as much as possible its taste and its style. “The idea that people [who] don’t have money aren’t expressive is a criminal offense for me,” adds Petersen.
The other essential location in the series is the farm and vineyard where Beth meets her love John, played by Michael Cera. Although they appear seamless onscreen, Petersen says they are two different locations in upstate New York that featured “similar geology” so they could be “visually stitched together.” “. Schumer’s real husband Chris Fisher was a great resource for the production in terms of authenticity and Petersen found it “inspiring”. Petersen also talks about his enjoyment of “working with local vendors” and leaving behind some of the builds from production for actual use at farmers markets and at the vineyard.
The penultimate episode of the season, titled “MRI”, also features one of Petersen’s favorite sets from the show. He and the production team have built an MRI room, a claustrophobic space, and an experience that inspires Beth to revisit some of her most painful childhood memories. Petersen likes the episode not only because it features a “really special” setting, but also because the physical room played such a huge role in revealing “the emotional weight” that Beth has carried in all previous episodes. “Life and Beth” has been renewed for a second season, and Petersen couldn’t reveal any information he might know, teasing, “I wish I could tell you, but I can’t.”
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